How To

Easy steps for how to clean an iron

By Luke Carlino

Updated: May 7th, 2020

Say goodbye to gunk and hello to an iron that glides effortlessly across your clothing.

Some people loathe the chore of ironing, others can find it quite therapeutic (so long as there isn’t too much of it). Either way, we can all agree that irons make our clothes look great! They remove wrinkles and creases, helping us to look our best when we leave the house. So, knowing how to clean an iron can help you get the very best out of the task.

With that in mind, the clean, crisp look provided by an iron is best achieved when the iron itself is also clean. It is essential to maintain your iron as soleplates, which are located on the bottom of your iron, as they can become sticky and oily.

This can cause trouble for your clothes as fabrics can melt, or you can leave residue on your outfits. The last thing you want is your wardrobe looking worse after an iron! By taking care of your iron, you’ll get the best results and allow for it to glide effortlessly across your clothing, making the task of ironing a much more pleasant experience.

How often do you need to clean an iron?

Sometimes it can be very obvious when your iron requires a clean, especially if you are noticing some adverse effects like the ones mentioned above. If a gummy build-up is forming on the soleplate or you are seeing a grab on the fabric as you iron, it’s likely time for a clean.

You may also notice that instead of emitting steam, there is gunk spurting out of your iron. These are mineral deposits that are telling you your iron is well overdue for a clean. These deposits can cause stains on clothing that are hard to remove. There is nothing worse than dirtying your freshly cleaned clothes, especially if you are in a rush to get out the door!

How to clean your iron in 10 different ways

You will likely find many strategies on how to clean the bottom of an iron with natural, readily available ingredients. The good news is, most of them are probably pretty effective!


It does depend on what substances form on your iron as to which method will work best, so experimentation may be necessary. To help, we’ve compiled some of the best processes available to get a good clean:

1. Baking soda and water

Most people have baking soda lying around the home, and everyone has water, so this method is an easy one! This combination should dissolve any gunk on your iron. Simply mix a little baking soda with enough water to create a paste.

Once you have a nice paste, rub it on the soleplate with a soft brush or towel. Let it sit for a while then use water to wipe it away. Remember, it is crucial that you ensure the paste is completely removed, and the iron is dry before you use it on your clothing.

Actually, if you’re wondering what else baking soda can be used for here is some other helpful natural cleaning products to clean your house and also check out these 10 ways to clean with baking soda.

2. Newspaper

Before you recycle those old newspapers, spare a little to help clean your iron! Just heat up the iron to as high as you can, scrunch up some paper and scrub the soleplate with it.

It’s as simple as that! Just be careful as the iron will be hot, some sort of protection for your hands may be necessary.

3. Acetone nail polish remover

For a particularly dirty iron, this method will dissolve grime and make it much easier to wipe away. Once again, you’ll have to turn the iron on heat it up to high, then just soak a cotton ball in some acetone nail polish remover.

From here, you just dab the soaked cotton ball onto the heated soleplate. You’ll notice the acetone nail polish will evaporate quickly while it’s also dissolving the gunk! When you are finished, make sure you wipe the surface with a wet cloth.

4. A kitchen sponge

Sometimes all your iron will require is a wipe with a non-scratch kitchen sponge or scrubber. Just use soap and water and wipe the iron with a towel to help it dry completely before use. Easy!

5. Vinegar

This method has been popular for a long time. Use distilled white vinegar on a towel, wiping the soleplate to remove gunk. You may need to let the soleplate soak for 15-30 minutes if your iron is really featuring some dirt.

If you want to really power-up your clean, add a little baking soda to the vinegar and dampen a towel with the mixture. Lay the soaked towel flat and run the iron over the towel for a great clean. Just make sure the iron is off while you do this!

6. Dish detergent

That’s right, what’s good for your plates is good for the plates of your iron! Get some water and pour a few drops of liquid dish detergent in, then use a soft rag and wipe away any residue.

7. Salt

Ever wondered how to clean an iron with salt? Just sprinkle a fair amount of salt on to a sheet of paper and run the warm iron over it. This will do a great job of tackling stains and other gunk. Just make sure you wipe away the salt with a dry cloth before use.

8. Toothpaste

This may seem a little strange, but if you’ve ever heard someone ask how to clean an iron with toothpaste, they are not crazy; it works! Rub some white toothpaste on the soleplate, and then wipe it off with a damp cloth.

Once again, it’s essential to let the iron dry thoroughly before use.

9. Distilled water

A great way to clean the inside of your iron and the steam holes is by ensuring you don’t leave stale water in it for too long. Every now and then, refill your iron with distilled water and set it to the highest heat with the full steam setting selected.

You may even have an iron that offers a steam clean setting, which will achieve a similar result. From here, just let your iron sit and emit steam, which will help to clear the vents. Another method similar to this, or to be used in conjunction with it, is ironing an old towel allowing the steam to flush the gunk out.

Whatever you do, never put vinegar inside of your iron!

10. Dryer sheets

Finally, you can rub a slightly warmed up iron on a few dryer sheets to remove the gunk. Sometimes simple is effective!

But here’s what not to use…

When it comes to cleaning an iron, many people are tempted to use things like paper clips, or anything hard they can jam into the steam holes or scratch gunk off with. This is a bad idea and should be avoided at all costs!

It will more than likely cause unwanted scratches on your soleplate and in the steam holes. Don’t make us write an article on ways to get rid of its scratches!

Frequently asked questions

How do I clean the gunk off my iron?

You could use baking soda, newspaper or a kitchen sponge as a starting point; however, the level of gunk, and what has caused it, can often be the determining factor of which will work.

You may have to try a few before you find an effective one for your situation, but trust us, one will work!

How do you remove brown water from an iron?

If you are noticing drips of brown water, it’s like a build-up of gunk in your steam holes, which can be a little trickier to clean.

To clean the steam holes, get a damp cotton swab and dip it in a solution of water and a liquid detergent. This can be time-consuming and a little monotonous, but then you’ll have to insert the damp cotton swab into each of the steam holes for a little scrub.

You can also use a toothbrush or pipe cleaner as a handy tool for cleaning the steam vents. An old toothbrush is an effective way to loosen and remove unwanted residue or remove the baking soda or salt you’ve used for cleaning from the vents.

How do you de-scale a steam iron?

Much like the distilled water step above, the best way to descale your steam iron is by following these steps:

  1. Completely fill the water tank of your iron and turn it on. Some irons with adjustable settings are best set to MAX TEMP and NO STEAM
  2. When your iron has reached maximum heat, unplug and hold it over the sink with the soleplate in a horizontal position
  3. Your iron will have a setting that reads CALC CLEAN (or similar) via a button or selector, press and hold to activate
  4. Give the iron a gentle shake until it is empty, you will likely see water, steam, and grime coming out of the vents.
  5. Finally, heat the iron and glide it over an old cloth to give the soleplate one last clean, you may need to repeat this process a few times to get all of the grime.

Don’t have the time to iron?

Who has the time to iron baskets and baskets of clothes, sheets and everything else these days? Well, why not get a well-versed ironing expert to help carry the load.

Looking for some more great how-to guides check out:


Luke Carlino

Luke Carlino is a freelance copywriter, social media manager and content creator based in Melbourne. He works for a range of clients across a plethora of industries and is also an accomplished musician with solo and band works online.

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